Video Game Companies – Can You Be More Proactive and Less Reactive?

Video Game Companies – Can You Be More Proactive and Less Reactive?

I saw the news this morning that Shadow of War's developer, Monolith Productions, will be removing microtransactions from the game. Here's their quote.

"The core promise of the Nemesis System is the ability to build relationships with your personal allies and enemies in a dynamic open world,” Monolith said. “While purchasing Orcs in the Market is more immediate and provides additional player options, we have come to realize that providing this choice risked undermining the heart of our game, the Nemesis System."

Shadow of War came out in SEPTEMBER 2017! That was over SIX MONTHS ago, and Monolith Productions is just now coming to the realization that they should remove a system which was, in their own words, undermining the HEART of their game.

Only a few weeks ago, EA finally patched Star Wars Battlefront 2 to put back in the systems completely removed on DAY ONE of the game's launch back in NOVEMBER 2017! 

First, why are you taking six months to make these crucial changes to games with a shelf life of nearly that amount of time?

Second, why did it even have to happen in the first place?

This is not a discussion or critique on loot boxes or microtransactions. Video game companies being reactive is an issue we see across the board. Whether it's taking forever to fix something that was bad, or taking forever to do something that's good, companies in this industry generally fail to have the vision and forethought necessary to make a proactive GOOD decision.

Ever wonder why indie titles often capture the hearts and minds of players? Wonder why the smaller games are often the ones to start trends? It's because they're proactive in their approach to what players actually want. The developer, in many cases a single person, comes up with a good idea he or she thinks will be fun, and makes it into a game.

I'd like to see companies be more proactive with customer-first service, fun-first gameplay & features, and common-sense decision making throughout. We'd have a lot more game diversity & probably see more leaps forward with new, fun, and interesting ideas instead of having to chase our tails for six months reacting to every good or bad idea after it happens.

  • We’ve certainly been down this path before. Big companies, especially public companies, want a sure thing for their investment and so they go with whatever is popular currently, maybe with minor variations. The only time somebody like EA branches out is when they buy a studio that does something different, as that preserves their margins. (An acquisition is viewed in accounting as trading money for an asset that is worth the value paid, so it is revenue neutral even if the price is outrageous.) They will never be proactive. If the CEO is proactive and it doesn’t work out, they lose their job. Meanwhile, saying you’ll pull out the cash shop and then taking your sweet time in doing so probably doesn’t hurt the bottom line either.

    So yes, new things will likely come from an indie source. The hard part there is finding the needle of new in the ever growing haystack of derivative crap. I saw a stat that says Steam sees 35 new titles showing up every day. And most of them are unoriginal knock-offs at best and simply garbage at worst. There may be a gem out there, but right now we’re unlikely to find it. So, sure, an indie may capture an audience, but even that is a rare occurrence. For every one you can name there are dozens or hundreds of indie games that didn’t impress anyone.

  • This feels a lot like the end of mmorpgs: buy the box for early access, 6-12 months later f2p. Will AAA games meet the same fate?

  • TL;DR: Jesus fucking tap dancing Christ, people stop buying these games already, you are hurting our community by supporting AAA desires to establish predatory monetization schemes for the future of gaming with your short-sighted, selfish, poor impulse controlled, desires to have fun in the short term, …please, …just, …stop!

    That is about as emotive as you will every see me, but it is somewhat fitting summary of the following wall of text.

    These practices are part of a thoroughly thought out premeditated step-wise monetization road map.

    There aren’t just multiple “Oops” random occurrences here, it is working as intended long-term experiment that has yielded some temporary unfavorable results for EA.

    Most specifically, it is based in EA’s current agenda to keep microtransactions in premium priced AAA games as extra revenue streams, which at this point amounts to a war of attrition against the the consumer to see if they can out-wait the community and therein habituate it to this model in the face of dwindling public backlash over time.

    In this way it isn’t necessarily about the profitibility of any single game released with such parasitic monetization scheme, but testing a an overreaching marketing theory meant to change the landscape of gaming monetization for the foreseeable future.

    Individual games are tinder, IP’s are reusable fuel; burn one down, while concurrently building another.

    It is a basic formula, obtain rights to a highly popular and expensive IP, spend tremendous amounts of money on pre-release advertising, charge a premium price for the base game, plus offer ridiculously priced “deluxe” editions, often with pre-purchase incentives, throw in microtransactions, justify these heavy-handed methods as being necessary to recoup their investments and continue to bring the gamer high quality products, bank on gamer apologists with poor impulse control to support them, and hold off on modifying their monetization road map until the cost of running the scam doesn’t justify maintaining it similar to a Recall Coordinator’s Formula

    …and once again here we are, with gamers naively believing corporate gaming outlets are bumbling their releases without foresight because they aren’t giving the gamer what they want in a game, but in reality their primary concern isn’t to deliver a game our community will find most enjoyable by maximizing fun per gamer dollar spent, but somewhat the opposite, rationing fun and adding “fun pain” to optimize the profitability of their corporation.

    I wish gamers would stop looking at devs working for corporate gaming outlets as just another group of gaming nerds who have a shared primary interest in providing the community with games they would like to play themselves, if you want that look towards the indies.

    One tends not to see history being made when they are in the midst of it. To companies such as EA this is a chess game where they are planning years in advance to establish the most profitable gaming landscape possible.

    All of this controversy stems from an experiment in manufacturing consent for these parasitic monetization methods, and the long-term profitability results aren’t in yet.

    So the bottom line (figuratively and literally regarding AAA financial viability) boils down to whether gamers will be able to be coerced into accepting their conditions, or simply put, as a gamer are you still going to buy games purposely broken waiting to be fixed with credit card bandages?

    Shadow of War and Battlefront 2 were not unconnected/uncoordinated poorly managed blunders by EA, but thoroughly designed experiments in marketing where one of the recognized potential outcomes would be public backlash, and even a boycott, but from their POV it was worth a try, even though in these cases they hurt their short term financial viability.

    The thing as a community we need to make it not worth giving it another, and another, on top of another, try, as the balance of corporate manager employability and stockholder expectations is a dynamic process, which we actually ultimate control over by exercising impulse control.

    I cannot respect a gamer’s opinion who laments about the state of predatory corporate monetization schemes in current AAA games, and yet still buys them rationalizing that it is “fun”.

    $$$ = consent

    The reality is such gamers are not only supporting these practices in the short term, but are those to blame for allowing their establishment as potential industry standard operating practices, or to restate…

    • …for best effect, read above while playing the latter link in the background.


    • * “…throw in microtransactions, and DLC released at and immediately following launch, …”

      • I probably shouldn’t write grand treatises over lunch without editing first.

        Please insert Monolith/Warner Bros. for SoW and EA for Battlefront. 😉

  • In the case of “Shadow of War”, their removing RMT is just an advertisement for the upcoming paid DLC pack being released in May.

    As you said, the game is over six months old. It’s single player and wasn’t a huge hit. Nobody is talking about this game anymore, and I bet they’re not selling many of those boxes anymore either.

    So by making a fuss about removing them it gets the game some free press (like this very blog post!) and hopefully will entice people who passed on the game to pick it up in time for the paid expansion.

    It’s not about being reactive or proactive or whatever, it’s just business . They felt the RMT boxes were their best bet to make money at first – they have now outlived their usefulness and are being cut. It has absolutely nothing to do with what is “right” for the “spirit of their game” or whatever bullshit they come up with.